She replied, “I’ve tried to scan it several times and enter in the code by hand, but it isn’t scanning. Can you help?”
“Sure.” said the manager, “Let me take a look.” He examined the label and said, “I think another number is stuck in the wrinkle. Let’s add a 9 and see what happens.” It worked.
He then told Susan and the customer goodbye. It wasn't fake or condescending; it was one human being helping another.
You may be shaking your head if you knew me 25 years ago, that's because I focused my business on helping smaller retailers which meant that I should be bashing Wal-Mart. You can still find my article, What To Do When Wal-Mart Comes To Town around the ‘net.
But as I get older, things get grayer. Wal-Mart is a good case in point...
I know they don’t pay much. I’ve seen the documentaries on how some workers have to use public assistance to survive.
But I also understand that their culture has given many a feeling of family and a place to fit in.
Maybe those employees don’t have the retail sales skills to work at a Nordstrom, and Wal-Mart may not be where you want to work. But seeing that interaction myself, made me realize that Susan had an amazing manager who valued her and treated her well.
Every retailer should treat their employees as well.
I would suggest that many of us still hold internal lists of sheep and goats. We use it to measure customers, employees, strangers, and spouses.
We use it to brand certain stores good and others bad. And no list like that makes the job of selling retail easier or more profitable. in fact, it makes it much harder...
Maybe I’ve come to realize that there’s room for everyone in the retail world.
I mean, if the sheep are only those people who think and believe, look, talk, shop and act like us, then that means the rest are goats.
It leaves little room for us to hold the idea of a woman who has a different faith than you in one hand and who volunteers at the homeless shelter on the other.
Or the grandfather who drives the noisy car that trails blue smoke around the neighborhood but who served in the military for dozens of years.
Or any room for the girl who constantly texts but plans to join the Peace Core when she graduates from high school.
Sheeps and goats leave no room for gray, or for opening our hearts to other possibilities.
Worst of all, we sheep and goat ourselves.
And there are few things more destructive to retail sales than judging oneself as inadequate, stupid or incapable of doing something right.
The trouble is that all this sheep and goat stuff is bullshit. There are very few inherently good or bad things or people – it is always our judging that makes them seem so.
The key to opening our hearts isn’t in how we talk about others. No, it is how we talk to ourselves with those polarizing lists and making black and white judgements.
And yes, I know this is hard. I’m still working on it.
No wonder kids disappear into their smartphones – it’s easier to disengage than engage.
And if we don’t find a way to get them to do the hard work of getting to know strangers, we may lose an entire generation desperately in need of their own voice lessons. But I digress….
What to do as retailers...
This holiday season, I encourage you to reprogram your attitude from red state/blue state, from with us/without us, from like/dislike, from friend/enemy. And yes, from local/big-box. We have to find a way to give respect to all types of retailers, customers and employees.
The old adage your grandmother might have said still holds, “Find something positive about a stranger.” It's something that has to be given, not earned. And it’s not just in person.
I’m suggesting before you write that tweet or Facebook status update that you pause before posting.
And ask yourself, just like you were talking to them in person, “Is this the person I am? Is this the person I want to be?”
Sheep and goats; it’s too gray a world to cut people off; especially yourself. Whether you work in a retail store or not, there is a place for every person, every business, everything.
Especially in retail. Where we’re all purple and our money’s green.
Thanks for taking a minute to read this and in case I lose you for a few weeks and while I’ll still be writing through December, I wish you a happy, peaceful, prosperous season right now.
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